The historic temple-town of Shani Shingnapur in Maharashtra witnessed massive protests as women activists tried to enter the temple of Lord Shani on Republic Day.
The women from neighbouring Pune district were stopped at Supe in Parner taluka – around 90 km from the temple-town.
Though the women could not enter the temple town the message was loud and clear. Women activists and people on social media came out strongly in support of the protesters.
At the temple dedicated to Lord Shani, one of Navagrahas, the nine primary celestial beings in Hindu astrology, women are not allowed to the chauthara, which has the self-emerged (svayambhu), a five-and-a half-feet high black rock installed on an open-air platform, which symbolises the god Shani.
The much-publicised agitation was led by Pune-based Trupti Desai, who heads the Bhumata Rangranai Brigade. Incidentally, the Shri Shanaishwar Devasthan Shani Shingnapur-Newasa, the temple trust, which is headed by a housewife, Anita Shetye, had made it clear that women would not be allowed to go near the sanctum sanctorum.
The locals also made human chains to prevent the women from stepping inside the temple complex.
The women activists, who were on their way from Pune to Shani Shingnapur in 7 buses and 15 cars, were stopped by the police – comprising a large number of women constables – at Supe toll naka along the Pune-Ahmednagar highway. The activists, many carrying small the national flag, squatted on the highway and raised slogans against the police action.
The women also targeted Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. “What is he doing…he is the youngest Chief Minister. Why women are being stopped, why,” said Desai.
Another activist questioned out the rationale behind barring women’s entry in the temple. “It is a black day for women on the Republic Day. The Constitution allows equal rights,” she said, adding that “gender bias” needs to be removed from the society and we have to make a beginning.